A note of thanks…

December 25, 2008

The new year is approaching and I am finding myself reflecting on an incredible 12 months. Incredible, surreal, gratifying, crushing, uplifting, concerning and more.

This year I’ve basically been a homeless nomad as I’ve traveled the world to conferences and meetings. I’ve spent 14 hour stretches on planes, stayed in everything from crappy random motels all the way through to mansions in high-rise buildings.

I have loved every moment. It has been life changing.

I owe a lot of people a great debt. They helped make this year possible. I am going to invariably miss some of them here, but I’m going to try to name them anyway.

Nik Seirlis

Nik was the guy who believed in a 10 year old kid doing work experience in a computer store. He listened to my complaining one rainy night 3 years ago and said “Kid, you need to stop doing this small time stuff and think bigger”. OK he didn’t quite say it like a cowboy, but you get the drift. Nik continues to give me a firm kick in the arse every time I start to rest on my laurels. He helped me get the courage to start this journey.

He literally got on a plane with me in ’06 and we went to Silicon Valley together. Nik’s personal success set the bar for me in my own life and continues to inspire me.

Ashley Angell

If Nik helped me start the journey, then Ashley packed his bags, sold out his family and joined me on the road (figuratively). Ashley and I co-founded Faraday Media together, dreamt up APML and Data Portability together and have had countless discussions about social media, friendship, partnership and much much more. ‘

Ashley has that rare quality that you need in a business partner to be able to switch contexts. We each explicitly switch gears from ‘Friends’ to ‘Founders’ to ‘Board Members’ and emotionally and logistically bucket our discussions. Having worked with countless partners and friends, I can’t tell you how important, and how amazing this skill is.

Thank you my friend!

Steve Kelly

Steve Kelly funded the journey. He is Faraday Media’s angel investor and still funds aspects of the company to this day. His dry wit, calm attitude in the face of adversity and generous spirit have made it possible for Ashley and I to ride out together.

Ben Metcalfe

Ben is a unique guy. Dude is maybe a better word. When I first met Ben with Nik Serlis in 2006 his first words to me were ‘Why would I want to download THAT” referring to our then windows download product. I took an instant dislike to him.

Right after that, though, Ben showed his true nature. He and Sofia totally set us up in the Valley. They introduced us to almost everyone we know today. They showed us the sights, explained the culture and not only pointed us in the right direction, they took us by the hand and lead us there. Within a day I was having drinks with one of my heroes in SF city – Stowe Boyd.

Stowe Boyd

Stowe has been my inspiration for quite a few ideas over the last couple of years. What I call Edge Theory, Streams and even some of my ideas on the Attention Economy have been inspired by him.

Stowe continues to be an inspiration and I’m grateful to be working with him even more closely today!

Daniela Barbosa

Daniela is beautiful both inside and out. She is my co-conspirator, my collaborator and my friend. Along with Ashley, Marjolein and Elias (and many others not on this list) she helped me co-found and more importantly operate the DataPortability project. Without her, Elias and Marjolein (in the early days) it would have literally imploded under its own weight.

She has been unwavering in her loyalty and commitment and for that I will be forever grateful.

Marjolein Hoekstra

As I’ve described before Marjolein is a quiet supernode of the social media landscape. Her emotional and logistical investment into all this ‘Chris’ in the last couple of years has made it possible to keep up with our community, related posts and people and ideas and trends.  Marjolein uses her news radar skills and her countless browser tabs to find gold nugets in a raging river of noise.

I wish I saw more of her these days.

Elias Bizannes

Like I said above, Elias is one of the people who co-founded DataPortability with me. More importantly, however, he has been compeltely piviotol in turning the project into an organization. While we don’t always agree, we always respect what each of us brings to the table. And he brings a lot of HARD, detail orientated work. Like with everyone on this list, I could not have done significant chunks of my work this year without his help.

Martin Wells

Martin is almost as much a philanthropist as he is an Entreprenuer. I first glimpsed Marty’s name on the ‘2 Web crew’ website. An Aussie cabal of Web 2.0 leaders. They were once a pinicle of ‘in crowd’ for me to reach out to.

Reach out I did, to many of them. None responded with the generosity and common sense advice that Marty did. He not only elevated my thinking, but challenged me to think even more. He challenged me to stop thinking and to act.

He almost flew back to Australia to drag me to the Valley this year. I’m so glad I came.

Beyond the professional, however, I’d like to think that Marty and I have become great friends. He opened his home to me for many months and I will always love spending time with him, his wife and kids.

Robert Scoble

I met a lot of my heroes in the course of this year. Some were great, others were disappointing.

Scoble is exactly as you’d imagine. In the best way possible. He is constnatly swamped by people wanting his attention. He has a million incoming messages at any given time. And he tries his very hardest to give every single person SOME time. He sees us all as equals in a giant conversation.

His laugh is infectious and he is ALWAYS smiling.

His faith in me during his Facebook crisis helped propel the DataPortability project to a new level and his friendship through countless conferences and meetups (We’ll always have Amsterdam Robert hah) have turned amazing nights into surreal moments frozen in time.

It’s all just too much fun.

Michael Arrington

Michael Arrington is an amazing person. Number 100 on Time’s top 100 list this year (Lucky the list didn’t stop at 99 hey Mike?). That is seriously an amazing achievement.

Too many people assume Mike’s success is undeserved in some way. They are dead wrong. Mike works his *$@#ing arse off – often to the detrment of his health and his relationships. He gives TechCrunch everything.

When Mike invited me to stay at his home I was blown away due to his noteriety and ‘power’ in the valley. When I actually came to stay, however, I was blown away by a more important fact.

One of his first words to me were “I don’t want my shit on Valleywag”. In that moment I realized that he was taking a big risk letting me into his home and life – because any minute thing in his life could be blown out of proportion.

The most amazing thing I learned about Mike was that he still LOVES startups and helping people succeed. I would have never expected that.

Everyone wants something from Mike because they see him as a ticket to traffic or success. After spending a lot of time with him, I’d be happy to just call him a friend.

His faith and support of me at the start of the year will always be remembered and I am forever grateful.

Bill Hudak

I was introduced to Bill Hudak by Martin Wells. Almost instantly Bill, Marty and I became a crazy trio of Aussies. Bill isn’t an Aussie though. He is an American trying to be an Aussie. Oi, Bugger!

Bill is a valley boy – born and raised. He knows everyone there is to know here. He walked me into meetings with people I couldn’t believe just by making a phone call. He is super smart and super funny.

But more importantly than any of that, just like Marty, he opened his home and life to me. He lent me his car (A Pontiac Solstic no less) for countless months and litterally enabled me to speak to the people I needed to speak to.

I am proud to call him a friend.

Khris Loux

I met Khris just before a trip to Amsterdam. I really got know Khirs on the flight to Amsterdam and the ensuing 4 day Next Web Conference. When I say got to know him, I mean we laughed our arses off, took over the town, met the most amazing people and imagined the future of the web together.

Khris finds business value the way I find architectural value. He is the ying to my yang when it comes to startups. He too opened his home to me when I stayed in the valley. But more than that, he opened his mind!

As I’ve posted before, I’ve been offered a lot of gigs this year, but JS-Kit, lead by Khris, was special. I can’t wait to see what Khris and Chris can pull off in the new year.

In conclusion

I owe all these people, and countless others, a lot. Their faith, support and efforts on my behalf have made everything possible. I look forward to helping them to continue their journeys next year, and meeting more amazing people in ’09.

I’m sorry if your name does not appear here, my fingers are about to break and it’s Christmas Morning – I need to run!

Thank so much everyone.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I just posted a summary of the current data portability landscape to the Official DataPortability Blog.

From the post:

Closed platforms are like ice cubes in a glass of water. They will float for a while. They will change the temperature of the liquid
beneath. Ultimately, however, the ice cube must eventually melt into the wider web.

Facebook’s success with Facebook Connect can and will further drive innovation in the community to develop an open alternative.

Facebook’s success will (like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, AOL, Myspace, countless major media properties and countless small startups) to create alternatives. At least some of those participants will recognize (if they have not already) that the most open among them will earn both the respect and the market share of the next phase. Moving from Facebook Connect’s ‘data portability’ to Interoperable DataPortability.

A web of Data.

That’s a landscape where we can continue to innovate on a level playing field.

Proposal: OpenID Connect

December 8, 2008

OpenID needs to be as simple as Facebook Connect if it has any chance of competing. The problem is User Experience. It’s a nightmare.

My proposal:

  1. All Email providers and OpenID Consumers (particularly Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail) implement: http://eaut.org/
  2. Until we have critical mass with step 1, a 3rd party, community controled “Email to OpenID mapping service” should be provided. Vidoop runs a related service at http://emailtoid.net/. It’s quite good but it should be donated to the OpenID foundation for independent control.
  3. OpenID Connect login prompts ask for your email address on 3rd party sites.
  4. When you hit ‘connect’ it generates a popup much like the FB Connect popup.
  5. The contents of the popup is either:
    • The password screen of the OpenID provider as resolved via EAUT OR
    • The password screen of the OpenID provider as resolved via the community EmailtoID service OR
    • A prompt from the EmailToID service that walks you through creating a new OpenID or mapping an exiting OpenID to this email address.Here’s the important part: In all cases, the screens MUST conform to a strict UX Design Guideline set forth by the OpenID Foundation to ensure the process is as simple as Facebook Connect.Only providers that confirm to this OpenID Connect UX standard (as certified by the OpenID Foundation?) may have their OpenIDs validated in this popup. This is a harsh rule but it ensures a smooth UX for all involved.
  6. This initial Email to OpenID mapping through a 3rd party service is painful since most email providers and OpenID consumers do not use EAUT yet.
  7. This can be overcome if we get a series of OpenID Consumers and OpenID Providers involved as launch partners. A major email provider (Gmail, Hotmail and/or Yahoo) would also be be helpful but not a blocker.

Potential Concerns:

  1. How do we deter phishing? Does this work-flow make phishing worse because of the predictable UX? Does it matter? Is there a way to ensure a distributed karma system is included in the work flow?
  2. This only solves the login problem and does not go into the issue of connecting to, accessing and manipulating data as the full data portability vision describes. This is a conversation for another thread.

Bonus:

  • If you provide OpenID but do not consume it you need to be named and shamed. There should be a 2 month grace period, then The OpenID Foundation, the DataPortability Project and everyone else who is interested should participate.
  • “OpenID Connect” should be a new brand with a fresh batch of announcements with strict implementation guidelines (not just around UX but also around things like consumption).

To summarize, my proposal world:

  1. Allow users to use their email address for OpenID
  2. Standardize the User Experience for OpenID
  3. Provide a stop gap while Email providers catch up with Email to OpenID mapping.

Get involved:

I’d love to do mockups for this – but I’m busy. Anyone interested in learning from the Facebook Connect UX and drafting OpenID Connect Mockups from which we can draw the strict UX guidelines I mentioned?

Could this work?

Have you seen this?

Let me quote the highlights for you:

If the initial development race of Web 2.0 centered around “building a better social network” then the next phase will certainly focus on extending the reach of existing social networks beyond their current domain. How? By using the elements of the social graph as the foundational components that will drive the social Web. Where we once focused on going to a destination – particular social network to participate – we will now begin to carry components of social networks along with us, wherever we go. In the next phase of the social Web, every site will become social.

Agreed. That’s been the vision and promise of much of my work for more than a year.

Here’s the scary part

Facebook Connect proposes to make data and friend connections currently held within the walled garden of Facebook accessible to other services. This has two distinct benefits, one for the sites and one for Facebook.

For the participating sites, Facebook Connect provides more social functionality without a great deal of additional development. A new user can opt to share the profile information in Facebook instead of developing a new account. This gives the user access to the site and its services without the tedium of developing yet another profile on yet another site. In addition, users can use the relationship information in Facebook to connect to their friends on the other services. In short, it makes the new partner site an extension of Facebook.

Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.

The most scary part of this, is that while Facebook is quietly and methodically building out this vision with massive partners, the standards community is busy squabbling about naming the open alternative.

Is it Data Portability? Is the Open Web? is it Open Social? Is it Federated Identity?

At the start of this year one would have thought that the open standards movement got a huge boost by the massive explosion of the DataPortability project. It’s set of high profile endorsements catapulted the geeky standards conversation into the mainstream consciousness and helped provide a rallying cry for the community to embrace.

Instead of embracing it, though, many of the leaders in the community decided to squabble about form and style. They argued about the name, about the organization, about the merits of the people involved – on and on it went.

Instead of embracing the opportunity, they squandered it by trying to coin new phrases, new organizations and new initiatives.

The result is a series of mixed messages that have largely diluted the value of DataPortability’s promise this year. The promise of making the conversation tangible for the mainstream – the executives who are now partnering with FaceBook.

Will we let this continue into 2009? Will we continue to allow our egos to get in the way of mounting a real alternative to Hailstorm 2.0? Are we more interested in the theater of it, the cool kids vs. the real world or will we be able to reach the mainstream once again and help them to understand that entire social web is at stake?

I’ve not lost hope. There are countless reasons why Facebook and it’s Hailstorm 2.0 are not inevitable.

I have, however, lost a lot of respect for a lot of people I once admired. Maybe they can clean up their act and we can work together once again in the new year.

I put a call out to all those who are interested – technologists, early adopters, bloggers (especially bloggers), conference organizers, conference speakers, media executives – let’s get our act together and take this party to the next level.

I, for one, am looking forward to it.